This weekend, Guled has explored an unseen poem and written a terrific response to it. Here is his annotated poem:
It can also be dowloaded here: GY Blake poem annotations
Guled created his own question for the poem:
How does William Blake explore the theme of love in his poem ‘Love’s Secret’?
Here is his response:
The first thing that struck me as a reader was the short length of the poem, a mere 12 lines. I felt that this was a representation of the quick decline, from loving this woman to resenting the concept of love to the point of writing a poem on the subject. This is also shown through the use of words such as ‘wind’, ‘cold’ and ‘ghastly’, all which have almost airy and thin connotations, therefore representing the ephemeral joys of love.
I believe the poet does more exploration of the theme of unrequited love than he does the actual emotion love in the first two stanzas. This is represented in the very first line ‘never seek to tell thy love’. This line serves as a warning to all yet to experience love, and, to those that do but are not sure if the feeling is a mutual one. The next line continues this with ‘love that never told can be’. This line reinforces the fact that the feelings the poet had for this woman is either not shared or is still unknown to his love interest. Read together, the both lines represent William Blake telling the reader that one should ‘never seek’ to confess their love for someone as there is a chance that you will be rejected. In fact, this could be William Blake using his experience to downplay the beauty of love as he has never been in love with someone who shares the feeling, his selfishness is shown in the first two lines as he does not want anyone to experience true love because he has not, thus the warning. Alternatively, the first two lines can be interpreted as a reflection of his caring nature and that he is telling the reader to be wary of love as he has experienced it to be bittersweet. Furthermore, the use of inversion in line two of the poem is not only a reflection of the time period of the poem, but also allows the reader to see the text in a different way, for example allowing us to focus on the word ‘never’, which is a strong word representing his now strong emotions. However, not only does the use of inversion allow the readers to see it differently, it also symbolises how William Blake now sees love differently and how he has come to the realisation that love is no longer the beautifully ethereal emotion he once thought it to be.
The title of the poem reads ‘Love’s Secret’. The use of an apostrophe in the word ‘love’s’ can be deliberate to show it as an abbreviation of the words ‘Love is’. Hence, allowing the readers to read it as ‘Love is Secret’. This could be William Blake telling us from the start, before we even start the poem, that we should keep love secret.
In line 5 the phrase ‘I told my love’ is repeated twice, this highlights that he told his love interest a lot, how deep his love is. On the other hand, he may not have have confessed his love at all and this entire poem may not be about him revealing his love to this woman, he could in fact be confessing horrible things he has done in his life to her prompting her to leave, however, the next line says that he ‘told her all [his] heart’ this solidifies that he has confessed all his love to this woman.
In lines 7 and the beginning sentence in line 8, shows that the man is ‘trembling cold in ghastly fears’ this creates the sense that he is anticipating something, an air of suspense. Then on the next line it say ‘Ah!’ this definitely shows that he was indeed expecting a reaction to this confession, the reaction being her departure, almost like the ‘wind’ he describes in line 3.
The use of the phrase ‘Silently invisibly’ is repeated twice and it could be a representation of how suddenly and quietly ‘she did depart’. However, its second use in the last stanza could depict how he is watching her meet this ‘traveller’. This interpretation helps the reader to see the extent of his love that he is stalking her ‘silently invisibly’. Love has driven him to the point of insanity.
The poem ends with a ‘sigh’. This sigh could come from one of two people, if not both of them. The poet (or the man the poet is playing) or the traveller. If it were to come from the traveller it shows that this traveller also knows the dangerous nature of love, but it seems to be like an addiction to these men and they cannot keep themselves. This theme of the ‘dangerous addiction to love’ is prevalent throughout the poem and it could be William Blake using it to show how desperate some, if not all, men are to love to and to be loved. If the sigh were to come from the poet it could be him ‘silently [and] invisibly’ watching his love be taken by this ‘traveller’. Therefore forcing him to come to terms with the fact that she may no longer be in his life.
I’m sure that you’ll agree this is a very insightful and detailed response – it would definitely get an A* in the exam. Thanks, Guled!
What grade do you think this response would be given? Thanks for the help.
It would get an A*.
Remember that the exam only allows 20-30 minutes for this question; just make sure that you make insightful/analytical points about the language and structure using relevant quotations.
I am an English teacher myself and have happily stumbled onto your blog.
How have you trained your students to create their own questions? I really would like some help with this, I know for A2 English Literature they are expected to devise their own questions, how can I work with them to do this at GCSE and KS3?
Many thanks in anticipation.
Glad you happily stumbled upon us! When creating a question, I ask them yo consider its central theme and go from there. If the poem has a particular language or structural pattern, the question could be that too. I may also give help with a generic question such as ‘How does the poet explore/develop/portray………… In the poem?’ then they fill the gap. Hope this helps.